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Mood Music for the Masses

Can’t put your finger on what’s wrong with that trendy new restaurant? Maybe the music they’ve piped is setting the wrong tone, according to alumnus Allen Klevens.
People  |  Apr 17, 2012  |  By Cate Weeks
Allen Klevens makes sure the music in a client's elevators fits its brand. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

Mellow yodeling for a mountain spa retreat? Britney Spears cued up for the singer's photo-op at The Sugar Factory? A special playlist for Chinese New Year?

Allen Klevens, owner of Prescriptive Music, makes sure that what you hear when you walk into one of his clients' businesses sets the right mood.
Selecting that soundscape "is not about what the general manager likes or thinks is good," Klevens says. "There's a lot of wonderful music that's just terrible for a particular business. It can kill an otherwise perfect presentation of your brand."

When Cheescake Factory signed on, Klevens immediately ditched the string music that played at lunchtime: "It's sleepytime music." Through the corridors of the Flamingo, he replaced European lounge music with 70s and 80s throwbacks: "It's an iconic Las Vegas hotel; it needed the showgirl vibe." And Cut, a steakhouse at The Palazzo, called for classic rock, like the Doors: "It totally changes the experience of eating steak, and that's just what they were trying to achieve."

Klevens, a classical pianist, launched the business in 1999. He was working in a Beverly Hills piano store and happened to go to a medical convention with his father. A vendor was selling CDs of music for surgeons, and Klevens figured he could get his own music out that way. And he started targeting for the newly booming spa industry. "Spa employees were sick of hearing smooth jazz and Kenny G over and over again," he says.

A buyer for the posh Canyon Ranch Spa liked his music but hated his packaging. She asked him to rebrand the CDs under her company's name, and thus started Kleven's service of prescribing music for clients. Marriott became his first national account, and then he landed Wolfgang Puck restaurants. For Spago at The Forum Shoppes, he programmed John Lennon's "Imagine" to play on the hour as a nod to the painting of the same name that hangs in the dining room. (That painting is by UNLV graduate Tim Bavington; see page 30 for more on him.)

Now his company employs eight people and serves companies throughout the United States. As technology changed with the times, the CDs were replaced with systems Prescriptive Music can control from its Los Angeles headquarters. It allows the programmers to immediately adjust music when the vibe is off.

So what would he put into UNLV's own Student Union? "UNLV is a salad bowl. I would need to make sure it's not just one type of music. Rhianna would certainly be in there, but not all day long. I would put in some throwbacks, like Tony Bennett -- because he's cool again and because he matters to Las Vegas. And I'd put in a lot of independent artists. College is about experiences, so you want students hanging out to discover what's new and what's going to be new next summer."